The Indians have designated veteran lefty Oliver Perez for assignment in order to open a roster spot for righty Nick Wittgren, who has been reinstated from the paternity list, manager Terry Francona announced to reporters this morning (Twitter link via Ryan Lewis of the Akron Beacon-Journal).
It’s a bit of a surprising move, as Perez has pitched well for Cleveland dating back to 2018 and has yet to surrender a run in 3 2/3 innings this season. Francona, however, acknowledged that he’s had a difficult time finding opportunities to deploy Perez — perhaps a nod to the three-batter minimum rule that was implemented in 2020 and is rather limiting for lefty relievers of Perez’s nature. Perez has faced just six lefties in 2021, as opposed to a dozen right-handed batters. He’s done just fine against those right-handers, but as with most lefty relievers, Perez has a rather substantial platoon split over the course of his career.
Career platoon splits notwithstanding, Perez has reinvented himself after washing out as a starting pitcher back in 2010. The 39-year-old has a 3.42 ERA in 350 relief innings dating back to 2012, and he’s been particularly effective in Cleveland after a lackluster two-year run in Washington from 2016-17. In 94 2/3 frames with the Indians, Perez has pitched to a 2.57 ERA (3.22 SIERA) with a strong 28.5 percent strikeout rate against a similarly impressive 6.8 percent walk rate. Lefties have posted a pitiful .203/.254/.297 line through 197 plate appearances against him in that time, but Perez has also held righties to a relatively tepid .220/.306/.341 slash through 186 plate appearances.
Given that recent track record and an affordable base salary of $1.25MM, it’s quite possible that Perez will draw interest from another club — be it via a minor trade or a waiver claim. Were he to go unclaimed on waivers, he’d be eligible to reject any outright assignment in favor of free agency. In that scenario, a new club would only owe him the prorated league minimum for any time spent on the MLB roster, with Cleveland on the hook for the remainder of the contract.